Brain Foods that Supply Essential Nutrients #3 ~ Fermented Foods!

brain health healthy eating healthy living healthy recipes real food resilience sugarfree Mar 20, 2022

Save Your Brain with Fermented Foods ~ Brain Foods Strategy #3 

Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve talked about the Brain Foods that Supply Protein (LINK HERE), and Brain Foods that Supply Essential Fats (LINK HERE).  Both of these macronutrients are key strategies for saving your brain!  

As I’ve said before, one of the Key Principles to putting on the brakes on the presumed “downhill slide of aging” is to Eat Natural, Whole Foods that are rich in the many nutrients that will help our minds and bodies stay healthy — and in some cases even turn back the clock!!

Today we look at another type of Brain Food that has a rich history in human culture over thousands of years (as long as we can remember!) not only for nourishing our brains and bodies, but also preserving food before the advent of refrigeration – I’m talking about the beneficial and delicious Fermented Foods! 

HOW CAN YOU SAVE and protect YOUR BRAIN with FERMENTED FOODS?

What is Fermentation?

  • Cultures around the world have used fermentation for thousands of years, and each region has its own fermented specialty.
  • From tempeh to kimchi to kefir and beyond, fermented foods have played an important role in our health.
  • Fermentation was likely discovered accidentally and recognized as a process to help preserve food for longer (that’s why it was often used in the days before refrigeration). 
  • Beneficial microorganisms like yeast, bacteria and mold are all around us. When we put them in an environment where they can proliferate and thrive, fermentation will happen!
  • During the fermentation process, microorganisms transform sugars into acids or alcohol. The result? A highly nutritious, probiotic-rich food that is fantastic for our digestion and immunity.
  • When fermenting vegetables, if using soft leaves, you can add a little salt and then massage the leaves to release liquid from the leaves to form the fermenting brine. 
  • For harder vegetables like asparagus, carrots, cucumbers, beans, beets, etc (the list is endless!), you can mix your own brine by adding salt to water and then pouring over the vegetables backed into the bottles.

Why is it Beneficial to Eat Fermented Foods?

  • Consuming fermented foods DAILY in small amounts can help add good bacteria to our guts. 
  • The human digestive system is packed full of microorganisms: in fact, bacteria outnumber human cells 10 to 1!  This is what’s known as our Microbiome.
  • We actually evolved together over millions of years and depend on each other to support our health.  

Benefits include:

  • The fermentation process boosts vitamin and mineral content, and reduces the anti-nutrients found in foods, and helps preserve food for longer.
  • Improved Digestion - as the fermentation process is actually a pre-digestion, making it easier for our digestive process to function.  
  • Fermented foods also encourage a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which has multiple benefits that are outlined below. 
  • Improved Immunity - 70 to 80 percent of our immune system lives in our intestinal tract.  
  • Brain Health - Our digestive tract and brain are linked through the gut-brain axis. Evidence indicates that our gut bacteria impact the brain, and fermented foods can help improve cognitive function, protect the brain and nervous system, improve mood, and help with symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Fermented vs. Pickled: What’s the Difference?

  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickled veggies often use a brine of salt mixed with water, which is then poured over the vegetables. This creates an environment where microbes transform the sugars in the veggies into lactic acid, creating that tangy, sour flavour.  Prepared correctly (no cooking or freezing) the microorganisms are still alive and if you are buying them, then make sure you select this kind which you will find in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.  
  • Pickled foods are typically preserved in an acidic medium, such as vinegar. The brine is often pasteurized (heated) and then the final product is canned, which kills all the helpful bacteria (which is what we are after).  Store-bought vinegar pickles usually also contain sugar, preservatives and artificial colours to maintain their shelf-stable qualities.  
  • So skip the shelf-stable variety for the probiotic-rich LIVE ferments that you will find in the refrigerated section.

Enjoying Fermented Foods 

  • Ideally, eat DAILY, rotating at least 3 different kinds of fermented food each week
  • Delicious on salads, sandwiches, soups, vegetable dishes or as a side dish
  • Use as a condiment, or add it to dips or smoothies
  • Serving size is between 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup but start slowly and work up
  • You can cook with fermented foods – the digestibility and the extra bioavailability of the phytonutrients remains; best to add them near the end of the cooking process.

Recipe: Homemade Sauerkraut!

This is not as difficult as you may think!  And only takes about 20 - 25 minutes to chop, massage and bottle your ingredients.  Then lots of patience to allow it to do its thing!

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Green Cabbage (finely chopped)
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt (finely grated, not crystals)
  • 3 tbsps Ginger (grated, optional)
  • 1 cup Grated Carrot (optional)

Directions

  1. Remove large outer leaves and core from the cabbage. Shred or finely chop the cabbage, either by hand, with a grater or using a food processor.
  2. In a large bowl (wooden or glass, not stainless steel), mix cabbage with sea salt and optional ginger and carrots.
  3. Massage with your hands (or pound with a wooden mallet) for 10 - 15 minutes to release the juices - continue until you have enough liquid to cover the cabbage.
  4. Pack the sauerkraut mixture into a wide mouth mason jar and pound down until juices come up and cover the cabbage, leaving about 2 inches of space at the top. Carefully place a whole cabbage leaves overtop (inside the jar) to ensure it’s airtight. Seal the jar firmly. (Can also use a small weighted object such as a rock to hold the cabbage down.)
  5. Keep at room temperature covered in a towel or in a dark spot for about 3 - 5 days. Taste to see if it’s fermented to your liking. If it’s ready, then transfer to your fridge. If not, leave it longer until it is tangy.

Notes

  1. Let it rest first - Leave the cabbage and salt mix in a bowl for an hour (or more) to make the massaging easier. The juices will release and the cabbage will soften as it sits, so it will need less massaging time.
  2. Vary the Flavours - explore different herbs and flavours in your sauerkraut - dill, carrots, beets, apples, sea vegetables, etc.
  3. Add to your meal plans - delicious on salads, savoury breakfast hashes, sandwiches or as a condiment. 
  4. Try to eat fermented foods every day!

 

 

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